CJ Jacobson is the executive chef at the newly opened Girasol restaurant in Studio City. The two-time "Top Chef" alum played professional volleyball and traveled the world discovering different types of food before becoming a chef. He's worked in the kitchens at Axe, Campanile, Mercantile and restaurant Noma in Copenhagen and has cooked as a private chef for Arianna Huffington and the Marciano family.
At Jacobson's debut restaurant, Girasol, he's celebrating seasonal ingredients his way with a grilled Copper River sockeye salmon, apricot and burrata cheese with crispy lentils, seasonal raw summer squashes and a dried fava bean purée with house-made chorizo.
What's coming up next on your menu? House tofu and house fresh cheese.
Latest ingredient obsession? My latest ingredient obsession is probably lovage. It has an upfront celery flavor and a very mineral anise flavor as well. It's great raw with blueberry, and when toasted has a completely different profile. We currently use it charred on our octopus dish. I love herbs with many hats.
What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again — and what do you order? I don't have much time to go out anymore. I do, however, love Mozza. Having worked with a lot of those dudes, they always send me what they are excited about. That's what I love! I see all these chefs at the farmers market, and it's great to see their interpretations of our season. They sometimes have this lardo and rosemary pizza. I wish I could hit Red Medicine, Ink and Spice Table more; they all have really great stuff. Gorbals is a staple.
The one piece of kitchen equipment you can't live without, other than your Knives? I love the mortar and pestle. I mean seriously love. It makes my life better, and I smile most when using it. Developing flavors by crushing things with a stone is magical. I am very excited about tannins in food, as they bring a different personality to a dish. Mashing the skins of chiles, tomatoes and herbs is a special thing.
The last cookbook you read, and what inspired you to pick it up? I read tons of cookbooks. My favorite is "Fäviken." I love it because it is so complete to me. It has a spirit of cookery I have not found in any other book and is the most inspiring thing I have read. Having spent time at Noma, I also feel closer now to Scandinavian sensibilities and flavors.
Girasol, 11334 Moorpark St. (at Bakman Avenue), Studio City, (818) 924-2323, girasolrestaurant.com